2014 Giro d'Italia stage 7

Cycling was the sport in post-war Italy. Any number of artisan framebuilders plied their trade here, feeding the insatiable demand for racing bikes. In Foligno lived the Ugolinelli brothers Osvaldo and Guido, and they supplied bikes to Umbria’s best. Guido would construct the frames, whilst Osvaldo would paint them and craft them into the works of art he sold through his shop in Via Mazzini.

Osvaldo also ran a very useful amateur team, and nurtured the talent of Noe’ Conti. One of the best gregari in the business, he rode five giri between 1958 and 1962. He never won a Giro stage, but the fact that he rode for he likes of Coppi and Ercole Baldini is illustrative of his qualities. His little brother, Franco, also rode the corsa rosa seven times.

Osvaldo died in 1996, but the business he started in 1946 is in good hands. Rita, Elisabetta and Giancarlo, the three kids he raised, still supply bikes to the good people of Foligno some 68 years on…

The hordes who flock to nearby Assisi don’t always make it to Foligno, but for those in the know it’s an absolute gem. It’s the third largest town in Umbria, and its Romano-Gothic cathedral is a thing of jaw-dropping beauty. In June and September the town plays host to the Giostra della Quintana, a jousting festival during which the modern-day “knights” of the ten quartieri of the town pit their skills.

Little Umbria doesn’t attract quite the volume of tourists which neighbouring Tuscany enjoys, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It makes it more accessible, and it’s difficult to imagine a better place for a cycling holiday. Go on. You know you want to…

The great Bernard Hinault had already worn pink in 1980, and returned in 1982 determined to complete to the Giro/Tour double. Many amongst the Italian press pack hoped that the Bianchi-Piaggio team might mount a credible challenge. They were headed up by a powerful looking trident of "Tista Baronchelli (the eternal Giro bridesmaid), The Swede Tommy Prim and the climber Silvano Contini. The logic was that collectively they might unseat the Breton, but they were swiftly disabused of the notion.

Stage three was a 37 kilometre time trial to Assisi, and Hinault planted his flag. Prim finished a worthy second, but poor Baronchelli did his usual disappearing act. Hinault took control of the pink jersey, and by the time he took it off at the conclusion he’d four stage wins to boot. Prim and Contini rounded out the podium, whilst Baronchelli trailed in a decidedly ordinary fifth. Same old, same old…

You might not see it on TV, but stages like this can have a big impact on the Giro. The time gaps won’t be big – in fact the GC guys will almost definitely come in together – but this where tiredness starts to accumulate. So in the gruppo they will be starting to see signs of who’s good, who’s not, who’s coming into form, who’s pedalling well, all those things.

This is also where the head starts to be a factor. Between stages 4 and 12 there’s a lot that can go wrong psychologically.
The break will go early, but it’s all about the composition. Whether it survives depends on who’s in it, how many, and what sort of a threat they represent. It depends on who chases, how hard, and where they start. If there aren’t two teams prepared to work hard then it’s just possible it could stay away. I think it’ll be a good stage, this, a real battle.

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